The Atlanta Braves have either promoted or traded all of their best prospects over the past couple of seasons, and that sort of accelerated timeline has left the system barren of top tier talent. Atlanta certainly has a number of players that we like, but the minor league crew will discuss whether any of them are good enough to make a leap into the top 100 next season.
Will any players from the system be a Top 100 prospect by the end of the season? Which players have the best chance and why?
Matt: I can’t answer that one because there is one guy I think would be a real candidate even this year; but the undisclosed injury that shut AJ Smith Shawver down last year could potentially impact how much of him we see this year. I think JR Ritchie and Owen Murphy will have some chance, but they’d need to have a really dominant season since Low-A pitchers are usually the toughest category for making a Top 100.
Devin: My answer to this question would have been Cole Phillips because of his plus plus fastball, age and projectability. However, there is uncertainty around when he will return this season as he underwent Tommy John last season. As a result there is a zero percent chance he will pitch enough to make the top 100 list, but he is a name to watch for late in 2024. For me it is Ritchie who I’ve highlighted before, if he cleans up some mechanical things and gets the fastball velo up with more regularity he has an outside shot.
Brady: As much as I hate to be repetitive, I think the only right answer — if there even is one — to this question has to be one of the young arms. While Smith-shawyer has the highest upside and the best stuff, I think it’ll be Owen Murphy who has the greatest potential to crack top-100 lists by the end of the season. Given his high ceiling and the pedigree of being a first-round pick, Murphy has all of the ingredients necessary to make that jump into the list. I would also say J.R. Ritchie has excellent potential to make the list as well but as Devin noted, there are some mechanical things that may prevent him from reaching his full potential and making strides needed to make the list. But he should be watched as a guy with the potential to do so in the coming years.
Garrett: Owen Murphy would be my pick for the most likely player to get there, and even Baseball America has said that he is one that could make that leap. Murphy has all of the pieces to make that move, with a three pitch mix that should dominate the lower levels, decent command and high end athleticism, plus the pedigree of being a first round pick. AJ Smith-Shawver is another that I think could end up on the back end of the top 100 as he has as much upside as anyone in the system. Unfortunately the injury Matt mentioned has left us with questions as to his status for this season, but at the very least typically if a top prospect has a major injury that news will leak out and we have also heard nothing of that sort. The very longshot option would be Ignacio Alvarez, and while I do very much doubt this happens he is already getting attention from national outlets for his hit tool and if he can mirror his 2022 production at higher levels there is a shot he could get that sort of recognition. I do think between Murphy, Ritchie, and Smith-Shawver there is a good chance one has a good enough season to push himself to the back of a top 100 list, but I don’t see any with particularly high odds like I did with Vaughn Grissom and Spencer Strider at this same time last season.